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B.C. tourism staffing shortages impact some operations

Summary

Some businesses say they're cutting hours or closing for full days to stay afloat amid staffing shortages

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association says staffing has been a challenge for tourism operators across the board

B.C.'s hotel industry said last month that thousands of jobs across the province remained unfilled

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Staffing shortages in B.C.’s tourism sector are at a critical level, and many business owners say they’re cutting hours or being forced to close for full days just to stay afloat.

B.C. is now in the third stage of its plan to lift COVID-19 restrictions. As orders have been eased, businesses have begun to fully reopen, with many trying to take advantage of what is usually a busy time of year.

But Karon Keens, who runs a Dairy Queen in the popular B.C. tourist destination of Osoyoos, says she’s had to close the dine-in section of her restaurant because of her staffing situation.

As of Sunday, she’ll be open for drive-thru only.

“It’s worse than we anticipated,” she told CityNews. “We’re suffering from staff shortages, there’s also the supply change shortages. There’s just a number of crises going on in the industry right now. I’m speaking from a place of food and beverage, of course, but I don’t think it’s unique to food and beverage.

“Everyone’s so excited to be open, and then they’re faced with the fact that they can’t really open to the maximum because of this,” Keens added.

The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association says staffing has been a challenge for tourism operators across the board. Destination and Industry Development Vice President Ellen Walker-Matthews says everyone is trying to find ways to cope with the worker shortage.

“I know the hotels are trying to reduce the amount of housekeeping service that they provide, that kind of thing. Maybe more order up and pick up in food and beverage. But if you don’t have a cook in the kitchen, there’s no food coming out, right? You can’t work people seven days a week, that’s not an option that anybody wants to consider. So we really, really need staff,” she explained.


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In Vancouver, Steamworks operator Carl McCreath says the tourism industry in the city seems to be getting off to a slower start than it is in the Okanagan this summer.

However, despite the delayed comeback, he says he’s also finding it extremely difficult to staff his pub.

“Constant ads, interview, hire as quick as possible. We try to really focus on the training — we want to make sure they have a good training experience,” he said of finding new staff. “And just trying to build the schedule up. We’re keeping up with the sales, but it’s close. It’s like a race between the two for having enough people for the sales coming in.”

For now, the message from operators is a plea for patience from the public, as businesses try to adapt to the lack of staff.

“Our season’s just getting started,” said Keens. “We’ve got another two good months of this and we just all need to get creative already to change the way that we’re doing things. I think this is a common theme that shouldn’t be unfamiliar to most.”

B.C.’s hotel industry said last month that thousands of jobs across the province remained unfilled, just ahead of the easing of local travel restrictions.